Chapter 9: Survival
There comes a time in life when the very parts that enabled you to survive become your enemy.
That time in life when you realize that everything you were ever taught by those who raised you is incorrect.
That time in life when you realize that every meaning you assign to a situation is in fact untrue.
That time in life when you are suddenly aware that you are drowning, spinning down a spiral of self-destruction... and you realize that you have become your own worst enemy.
It is at this moment in life, where nothing seems to make any sense anymore, where you find yourself caught between the desire to die and the desire to live. Its in this moment that you find yourself faced with a choice. A choice to stop running.
A moment in which you measure your desire to “live” instead of just “survive”. Standing on the edge of the cliff of future, knowing the only way forward is to risk everything you know on surviving in exchange for a chance at learning how to live. It’s that moment when desire becomes desperation. And that moment where you choose “life” or “death”. For choosing not to escape the captivity of past experience is choosing to die. For the absence of life is death. And the life we live as survivors of an abuse that was so extreme it caused the psyche to create “alters”, “parts”, alternative personalities in which to store the abuse away from consciousness so that we can survive... that life that we were raised thinking to be life, is in fact not life at all.
That life... that life is merely surviving. And surviving is not “life”.
Just when we thought there was nothing more fearful than the fear we lived with, you find out, the fear of the unknown is great. And the fear of walking into the unknown alone without any guarantee’s, terrifying.
Choosing life is by no means a quick, simple decision to make. It’s a choice that will forever change your existence, forever change you.
But then... as survivors we know all to well the price of choice. It hurts.
As survivors we have been raised knowing for the likes of us there is no such thing as choice.
For survivors we have have learnt the golden rule: “Want Not, Need Not, Ask Not”.
It’s the rule we learnt young, the rule that would make a life of extreme abuse just a little less extreme. A rule quickly learnt.
But survivors of a life that should be unsurvivable have got one thing they can be sure of, they survived. And that right there is a powerful statement if turned around from the “victim” perspective of having had to survive such abuse to the perspective of “I survived!”.
There is a fine line between “surviving” and “survived”. Some live to survive the abuse only to live a lifetime spent identifying themselves as just that, someone who survived extreme abuse and live life in fear of it. And make no mistake, that is a great achievement indeed. But it is the one who chooses to overcome the fear that surviving holds that is the one who has truly “survived”. And it is the one who has truly “survived” that discovers how to truly live.
However, before one has “survived” they must first find a safety in “surviving”. No-one can step out of such extreme abuse straight into embracing “life” without passing first through the interim stage of identifying with having survived the abuse, and discovering a sense of “safety” that was never known before. The key though to moving from “surviving” to “survived” is realizing that fear will always hold you captive to your past. Its in the choosing to overcome the fear, to not be owned by fear anymore but rather be able to control it, that one moves from “surviving” to “survived”.
It is around about that stage in escaping from extreme abuse that one finds oneself standing at the edge of the cliff, with the choice to make of letting go of everything behind you and stepping into everything that you never knew was there for you to experience.
Its that place where you realize that that which you have envied in the life of a “normal” person, that you see in the workplace or other places in your life, is available for you to lay claim to. Why? Because even though its a hard thing to wrap your mind around, the fact is, you have a right to experience the good things in life. Yes, thats what I said, you have a right.
There really is no place for “If...”, no place for “But...” in escaping Timor Metus, there is only place for choosing that which lies ahead and pursuing it at all costs. Its a time of intensity. A time of survival. Once you had to choose to do and be in order to survive extreme abuse. Now you have to choose and be in order to survive surviving extreme abuse.
Once you choose to pursue “life” without any doubts or looking back, then you stand a chance at living. “Living”.... not “living in the past”.
I could sugar coat this, but that would not be helping you in healing, neither would it help me.
I cannot afford NOT to heal. For me, it is not an option. I choose to find out what LIFE really is meant to be, even if it means I die learning. I would rather die having experienced a little of true life, than die having lived a life in fear.
Timor Metus... the fear of fear itself. The fear of what happens if you choose to live without fearing the fear of the past.
Some two or three years ago, I stumbled upon an accapello whose author I do not know, but his words will never be forgotten.
“Standing at the edge of the world, with no where else to go,
Angels flying high above and demons down below,
With arms spread wide and head held high,
I boldly leap and hope I’ll fly”